United CEO Breaks Airline Silence On Abortion [Roundup]

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Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Misguided comments by your fellow BA bloggers Matt and Lucky. Kirby did the right thing. Just because airlines have commented on social issues in the past, doesn’t mean they are obligated to do so in the future. Disney proves you can’t win once you take a position. All the reputable PR firms are telling big corporations to stay out of politics going forward.

  2. Why should airlines or companies have a view?

    There goal should be to sell their product

  3. SCOTUS has ruled that $$$ = Speech and Corporations are People. So, by extension corporations have the “right” to have (woke) opinions and meddle in politics.

    (Not that I agree with this SCOTUS ruling….)

  4. The very idea of an airline executive speaking in his official capacity about something as personal as abortion gives me the creeps.

  5. @Ed – no, the Supreme Court did not rule that ‘money = speech’ but rather restricting spending restricts the ability to speak.

    As liberal Justice Stephen Breyer explained, the 1st amendment is implicated “not because money is speech (it is not) but because it enables speech.”

    And they didn’t rule that ‘corporations are people’ but that people do not lose their rights when they come together as a group (including labor unions).

  6. @BonvoyedAgain – I must have missed Lucky’s post on this, feel free to point me to it, I don’t think that Matthew said United should have taken a stand. I didn’t previously either. I just said ‘they take lots of stands, it’s natural to wonder whether they would on abortion, here’s why I think they don’t want to’.

  7. @Ed – You confuse the right to speak with the obligation to speak. One of the chief tenants of the 1st Amendment is no compelled speech. You can’t force people to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem, you can’t compel corporations to speak on issues they don’t wish to speak on. I think the overwhelming thought on this comment section and the nation is people recognize the right of corporations to speak, they’d prefer they really didn’t unless the issue directly affects them. Mask mandate, yes. Abortion, no.

    I always find it amusing that those who think that corporations should have no speech rights, yet if they do, be required to speak on issues of interest to them, in which case they’ll punish them for “incorrect” views.

  8. I don’t want your political opinions, Corporation. I want you doing the service/product I paid for. Do that. Simple as.

  9. I think people should stop pestering company executives to take positions on every controversial issue under the sun. United’s positions on the air travel industry are relevant. United’s own policies with regard to its own employees is a matter of internal HR processes and collective bargaining. If Scott Kirby is running for Congress, then his position on abortion is a relevant question. If he isn’t running (and he isn’t), it’s none of the media’s business what he thinks of that issue. Enough already.

  10. Yes @Ed, corporations have the right to their opinions and the right to meddle in politics. They also have the right to remain silent.

    Smart ones choose the latter…

  11. There are firms/“non-profit advocacy organizations” that pretty much extort corporations to say things. LGBTQ issues are heavily involved with these firms with lots of financial backing to pretty much drive the narrative in corporate america and media, and if you don’t say what they want, they will sabotage your company through bad PR/ employee uprisings/etc. The LGBTQ movement did not happen organically. Same can be said for the military industrial complex in Ukraine- it seems every company has put out a statement. Same with BLM/equity. Abortion is a stickier issue and it’s hard to put a positive spin on it such as “love wins” and “ ____ lives matter”. Since there is not a lot of extortionary pressure from outside firms on corporations re: abortion, therefore corporations do what they are supposed to do and stay out of it.

  12. Company’s should not take positions on issues and focus on operating their business the best they can.

  13. @Vijay – Way to conflate issues to come down on your side of the aisle. LGB equality issues did come down organically over a roughly 30 year period as a basic fairness issue, it’s the T issue that has been forced. (And we as a country have largely accepted marriage equality – it’s the radical gays who were opposed to it in the beginning and even most of them now accept it. Taming the bathhouses though monogamy was a good thing – see monkeypox.)

    And there are plenty of Ls and Gs and Bs who are going WTF on the T issue. It was Andrew Sullivan who just said until five minutes ago, the last person who told him to be interested in vaginas was a priest in the 1980s and now he’s supposed to be interested in them because the person declares themselves a man or he’s some sort of hater? The whole point of being a gay man is no vaginas.

    Ukraine is not some sort of military industrial complex conspiracy – it’s a plain example of wrong. Turns out that the big problem of Russia wasn’t communism, although that didn’t help, it was Russia itself. They had a chance to join the rest of Europe and rejected it. Which may mean that the Enlightenment never really penetrated the Orthodox Church, but I’d have to read up more on that.

    BLM/DEI – definitely not organic. But now that the battle has been joined, watch woke capitalism retreat, though it’ll still be there for some time. Just very quietly. No CEO wants to get the Disney treatment.

    Abortion – Most of America is in the grey zone, except for the extremists on either end. The vast majority support neither a total ban or total choice, but they don’t say much. Since there are established battlelines on the issue, I expect most corporations to keep silent, there’s not much to gain by pissing off a huge number of people in either direction.

  14. @vijay, your comments are not only egregious and offensive, they are misinformed and they are plainly wrong.

  15. @Magnifico, you state that corporations have the right to meddle in politics. Does that include buying politicians to do the corporations’ bidding? Undermine democracy?

  16. Gary, why don’t you speak your views on the abortion and other socially divisive issues instead of chastising CEO’s to do so.

  17. @Todikaios – I explained why CEOs don’t want to, I didn’t say they needed to, and I did offer my own view [without going into long detail] in my original post on the subject

    – as a matter of law I think the decision in Roe is barely coherent
    – but that doesn’t mean abortion doesn’t have a grounding in rights, since I believe the courts have largely *improperly* ignored the 9th amendment
    – I think abortion is a very complex moral issue, but precisely because the ‘one right answer’ isn’t so clear I’d be reluctant to adopt one right answer in law (banning it)
    – I don’t think anyone has come up with a better simple formulation than “safe, legal, and rare” which also seems to be where the majority of the country is and indeed the world, bear in mind that the U.S. is far more permissive of abortion than Europe is

    Basically it’s a really hard issue once you get past the first couple of months, and before you reach the end stages of pregnancy, and when you get into the ‘tough cases’ or usual exceptions. And I am not sure I know the answers to those.

    I think that fewer abortions is better. If they’re going to happen, earlier is better. But many abortion restrictions likely push the decision out later into the pregnancy.

    None of this – other than ‘safe, legal and rare’ – makes for a great soundbite either.

  18. Mitt Romney is a RINO and an idiot. As far as “Corporations are people too”….I’ll believe that when Texas straps one in to the electric chair.

  19. Running a major corporation is hard. Deciding on whether to weigh in on a political issue is easy. Unless that issue DIRECTLY impacts the company, the company takes no position. It works every time.

  20. @C_M

    It’s funny how most on the left don’t connect compelled speech with bakers being forced to bake a cake for a cause against their beliefs or individuals and businesses being forced to hire those they don’t care to or be bankrupted. Probably the biggest example of compelled speech is taxation as you are forced by threats of violence from the government to pay for things that you find repugnant and unconscionable.

    Management of Public corporations are breaching their fiduciary duty by putting out a corporate position on anything (lgbtq, abortion, police, gun grabbing, and anti white diversity) not directly related to the business. It’s understandable if a private business with a private owner wants to delve into politics, but taking positions when minority shareholders are affected is criminal. A Neutral stance should be required for public corporations under conservative common law.

  21. Will believe any ceo when they pull funding from those who enable mass shootings. Kind of like the whole GQP

  22. I think it was best that Scott Kirby (parent to seven offspring) didn’t choose a side regarding the highly personal issue of abortion.
    He should only tell us how he plans to provide a better product/service for travelers.

  23. The airline industry as a whole needs to stay out of this issue. PERIOD! They have enough problems of their own to resolve without getting into social problems such as this. The two don’t mix.

  24. @ed… I guess we have to define “meddle” then, but you seem to be getting angry and a bit off track.

    Enjoy the trip… alone.

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